Mathis Koschel

Previous Education

Ludwig-Maximilians University Munich

Research Interests

Very broadly, I am interested in the following topics: Thinking; its relation to nature; the concept of the world; philosophical method. In my dissertation, I am looking into the concept of mechanical causation, how employing that concept belongs to "finite cognition," and how Kant and Hegel deal with the limits of finite cognition in the case of mechanical causation.


Working title: Kant and Hegel on the Limits of Mechanism

Committee: Robert Pippin (chair), James Conant, Matthew Boyle and Christian Martin (LMU Munich)

Recent Courses

PHIL 29200-03/29300-03 Junior/Senior Tutorial

Topic: Kant on Causation

The concept of causation is fundamental to the world and our cognition of it, Kant claims. Saying that experience itself would not be possible without that concept, Kant rejects Hume's claim that causation is not warranted by experience. That is to say, Kant argues that the concept of causation is constitutive to our mind in experiencing the world. However, having defended the concept of causality to be fundamental to world and mind, Kant faces the problem of determinism. This problem can be put in the following way: if everything that happens has a cause in nature from which it follows with necessity, then everything that happens is caused by that cause in nature and cannot be caused by an act of the mind like a decision. Moreover, it may seem that everything that will happen is already determined to happen in a certain way. Kant addresses this problem by showing that it rests on a misunderstanding about causation–namely, that the fundamentality of natural causation does not actually entail that everything that will happen is already determined. Seeing this furthermore makes available the position that there being a cause in nature to everything that happens does not exclude there being a different form of causation like in decisions.

In this seminar we will engage in a close reading of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason centered around the concept of causation. In the first part, we will retrace Kant's argument for the fundamentality of causation to the world and our mind. To that end, we will read the introduction to the Critique of Pure Reason and select parts from the transcendental aesthetic and the transcendental analytic. In the second part of the seminar, we will engage with the issue of determinism as treated by Kant in the antinomies of reason. Centering the discussion around the concept of causation allows for a substantial engagement with a centerpiece of Kant's philosophy that is doable in one quarter.

Meets with Jr/Sr section. Open only to intensive-track and philosophy majors. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements.

2020-2021 Autumn

PHIL 29200-02/29300-02 Junior/Senior Tutorial

Topic: The Development of the Mechanistic World-View

In this seminar, we will investigate the development of the mechanistic form of explanation – a crucial strand of the scientific revolution that profoundly shaped and still shapes how human beings see the world. This involves looking at how the mechanistic form of explanation was spelled out in René Descartes and tracing the problems with that and attempts at solutions in thinkers like Robert Boyle, Margaret Cavendish, John Locke, Damaris Cudworth, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, Anne Conway, Isaac Newton and Immanuel Kant.

Besides getting to know how the mentioned philosophers thought about a central philosophical issue and seeing how problems in philosophy arise and are attempted to get solved, I want to mention two further points of focus of this seminar. One of these will be on the notion of explanation. That is, on the question when we consider to have explained something and when not. This is pertinent in e.g. the issue of whether the concept present in Newton of action-at-a-distance allows for understanding or not. This goes hand in hand with the question when a philosophical account of a phenomenon has been given and when not.

Another focus will be on the issue of conceptual change. For one, whether and if so how the concept of mechanism and concepts like inertia or force changed when discussed by a later thinker treated in this seminar. Understanding these issues is also important for trying to understanding the larger question of how the human conception of the world changed with the scientific revolution.

Meets with Jr/Sr section. Intensive-Track Majors should reach out to the instructor to be enrolled manually. No more than two tutorials may be used to meet program requirements.

2019-2020 Autumn